Community Message from the Dean

January 19, 2024

Dear Osgoode Community:

I write with respect to public expression and the communication of ideas in the context of our intellectually robust, respectful, diverse and inclusive law school community.

In line with previous statements from York University, as well as previous statements, comments and actions from me and my leadership team, we continue to strongly denounce any forms of hate or violence, particularly in an environment where we continue to see increased evidence of antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Arab and other forms of hate and violent speech in public discourse.

As we have also consistently stated and in line with York rules and policies, the important rights and privileges of free speech, free association and academic freedom are central to modern universities and cornerstones of democracy, and they need to be robustly valued and protected at all times, both in times of peace and in times of conflict. All of us at the University and beyond depend on those rights and privileges.

At the same time, academic freedom does not include freedom from critique. By the very nature and purpose of the privilege of academic freedom, civil yet robust critique must not only be tolerated but welcomed in the spirit of true intellectual exchange.

As part of our robust commitment to academic freedom and critique, it should also be clearly understood that the communications of any individual at the University – including via media, social media and other public comments and published statements – should never be taken to reflect the views or values of other individuals or of the University. By the very nature of a university in our society, they cannot.

The Osgoode senior leadership team and I, together with our York leadership colleagues, are working continuously to support our students, staff, faculty and alumni. I am regularly meeting with members of our community to listen, learn, and provide information and support. As everyone knows, there are vastly different views and feelings about current matters, from various perspectives and within and between different communities. Our job as members of senior university leadership is to care for and do our best to attend to the learning needs, safety and well-being of our students and all members of our community, while at the same time providing a space for those community members to explore and express ideas, including ideas that others may disagree with or, further, find objectionable. At times, this balance is difficult to maintain; however, it is imperative as a university to make best efforts to do so. Otherwise, the very nature of a university, as a core location for the development and critique of ideas in the service of human creativity, wisdom, empathy and innovation, will be irreparably jeopardized.

As a reminder, the University is increasing resources to provide care and support for students, staff and faculty who are struggling. Information is posted on the Well-being Resources | York University website.

I call on all Osgoode community members and friends, as we engage in the very challenging yet important exploration of ideas in the service of our common future, to do so in respectful, civil and empathetic ways. Doing so is always important, particularly at this time when so many members of our community and others are experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, fear and grief.

Thank you.

Trevor CW Farrow, PhD
Dean & Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School at York University